PH needs to get tough on hate crimes, child marriage, says NGO

Sisters in Islam programme manager Shareena Sheriff.

PETALING JAYA: Women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS) has urged the government to take a tougher stance on issues such as child marriage and hate crimes against minority groups.

Speaking at a forum here yesterday, SIS programme manager Shareena Sheriff said Pakatan Harapan (PH) had to take the high road when dealing with controversial issues, even if they were related to the LGBT or Shia communities.

“Islamic politicisation has changed our societies in this country,” she said. “The Malays now think, ‘I am Malay, you are not’.

“This idea of supremacy has caused a lot of tension. These divisive politics that have gone unchecked have led to identity politics.

“Among others, this has affected the LGBT community, which came under attack in recent weeks.”

She cited the example of two women in Terengganu who were caught having sex, the attack on a transgender woman in Negeri Sembilan and the removal of LGBT activists’ portraits from a photo exhibition in Penang.

“All these are violations of human rights and clear cases of rising hate crime.

“This is because of the passivity of the government and the authorities.”

Shareena said the minister in charge of national unity and social well-being had said that no violent action should be taken against these communities.

“But what we see is the exact opposite.”

She called on the government to be more stern and to send the message that violence will not be tolerated, including towards the Shia, Ahmadiahs, LGBTs and “the more liberal religious crowd”.

She was speaking at a forum titled “Malaysia Baru: 61 Years After Merdeka, Do Ethnicity and Religion Matter?”

The event was also attended by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national unity and social well-being P Waytha Moorthy.

Shareena also warned that PH risked sending the wrong message if it continued to delay solutions to the issue of child marriage.

“Do we want to send the message that men can conduct themselves in this manner?

“This is not the society we want in Malaysia,” she said, referring to the case of a 41-year-old Kelantan rubber tapper who made headlines after marrying an 11-year-old Thai girl.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail recently reiterated that PH was against such marriages and would take steps to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.

Wan Azizah, who is also deputy prime minister, also said that the couple were not considered married as long as no evidence was presented. She added that the man was being investigated for sexual grooming, which is an offence under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

Meanwhile, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, said PH was concerned about the “LGBT lifestyle”, rejecting claims by its critics that Putrajaya is more friendly towards the community.